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Our weekly Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Minnesota Wild related) and Thursday (Minnesota Timberwolves related). The first and third Fridays feature content from our non-active pro sports teams, the Vikings and Twins respectively at the moment.
Three ugly losses, two big trades, and more in this weeks edition. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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When we last left our heroes, the Wild had won four of five and were looking like we’d gotten out of the winter swoon. Since then, of course, we’ve lost three of four to terrible teams.
What have been the worse problems?
Peter: The same thing that seems to always plague Minnesota sports teams: playing down to their opponents. For some reason, they go onto the ice and think it will come easy, with simply no desire to compete and showing no effort. Several times our forwards on the back check just stopped skating and players in the defensive zone just watching the play.
Jeff: The worst problems have always been consistency and execution. Recently, it's like they are playing with no sense of urgency or heart.
This is why Paul Fenton is making changes. Most of this group has been together for a few years and we always get the same result. Fans are blaming the coach, but this was going on before Bruce. It's time to bring in some new players to shake things up and hopefully light a fire.
If that is trading fan favorites, so be it. I'm a Nino fan, but I understand what Fenton is trying to do. It is time for a culture change. Sacrifices are going to be made to get to the ultimate goal. It is not going to be easy, but I'll go along for the ride in hopes that he is doing what is best for the teams future. Hopefully the players start to recognize things and start playing with some heart and urgency.
Is there any silver lining in these games?
Peter: It showed the new GM some of the issues that this team may have been hiding from him. It showed their true colors.
Jeff: As far as play goes, there is no silver lining in losing to three of the worst teams in the league. It shows you where the Wild are as a team, and how there is no real accountability or leadership in the locker room.
If there is anything good coming out of this, is that Paul Fenton is just as sick of seeing this team playing like this as the fans are. Hence the trades he has made and I am pretty sure ones he isn't done yet.
What was the worst loss?
Peter: The Philadelphia game stands out most to me. Although the Red Wings game at HOME is right up there. The Philly game to me was the worst because Dubnyk said he felt good and he was seeing the puck well and he flat-out stunk.
Jeff: It's tough to pick the worst loss. You can't go in expecting to win every game. Coach Boudreau said that the Detroit game is the worst he's seen the team play, so you could say that was the worst loss.
At least during he Flyers game they tried to come back until the third. As for the Ducks game, Stalock gave up three goals on eight shots, which took the wind out of our sails quickly. After Dubby came in for Stalock the scoring stopped for the Ducks, but the Wild couldn't get any lucky bounces or quality shots.
All in all, I would go with the coaches opinion and say the Detroit game was the worst loss on the whole.
The Wild made two trades, one medium sized and one a bit bigger. First the bigger name: what do you think of the trade of Nino Niederreiter to the Hurricanes for Victor Rask? Who got the better deal? Who do you think is the better player?
Peter: That trade confused a lot of people, including me. Looking at the stat lines, the Canes got a much better end of this deal.
However, after I started thinking about it more, I feel like the Wild got what they needed. It was a bad contract for a bad contract trade, but the Wild got 1.25M in cap relief and another center to make them a little deeper and younger down the middle.
Jeff: The trade features two struggling forwards who needed a change of scenery. Nino is a left-handed shot who was playing on the right side and it wasn't working. Maybe with him going to the Hurricanes he can move to the left side and his game elevates for the Hurricanes. In Rask, the Wild get another center who could benefit from the change of scenery, in addition to giving them more depth at the position.
In the other move, prospect Justin Kloos was sent to the Anaheim Ducks for Pontus Aberg. Your thoughts?
Peter: This trade was actually bigger than the Nino trade. Yes, Nino was a fan and teammate favorite, but this trade helped fill a larger need. Aberg is a goal-scoring, fast, extremely skilled RIGHT shot forward. He fills in so many gaps that this team hasn't had for years. Considering that he's a restricted free agent with a meager 650k cap hit, he's also low-risk.
Jeff: The Wild gave up a prospect who hadn't played much for a guy who has a little bit more NHL experience. He's also a right handed shot, something the Wild desperately need. On paper this looks like a good trade for the Wild. People say a lot of good stuff about Aberg, so let's hope it translates and he finds a line to fit on.
As for losing Justin Kloos, I'd love to see him succeed with the Ducks and have a great career, considering that he is one of us. I wish him all the best and look forward to see him play in the future.
What is your assessment of the new look Wild?
Peter: The team needs help to be a true contender for the Cup. The two trades might be setting up bigger moves as we approach the trade deadline. The team needs to show some heart and compete before I'll buy into the owners viewpoint of being a Cup contender.
Jeff: It is hard to assess until you see them on the ice with their new teammates. What lines are they going to be on? Who are they playing with on those lines? It'll be interesting to see how Bruce mixes and matches the lines to find the consistency the Wild need and are looking for.
I'm also pretty sure Fenton is not done dealing, so we will be seeing some more changes coming, which I'm looking forward to. Fletcher left this team in disarray, and Fenton is trying to fix it by finding the best value and getting his team back to winning.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.